what feed to "finish out" with?


6 Years
Jun 12, 2013
Northern NY
ive got a mixed flock of birds that are past ready to go to freezer camp (I keep telling them the bus broke down, maybe next week
) anyway ive got them penned up tight and i havent increased their feed as I would want meat weight not fat weight, but they are of a good size now as it is. They are fed FF which is a mix of layer, chick, scratch, and as of recently alfalfa < more for my layers...

We've got apples coming out our ears, as well as corn, tomatoes and other garden veggies, the coop chickens were getting most of the snacks, but now ive started doing more with my own birds....

ive started adding leftover garden snacks to the FF barrel, today it was a little tomato and some crushed apple... and i got to thinking about how much fresh produce *specifically apples, squash, corn* is safe to use as a finishing feed, i dont want to give em diarrhea either... but im wondering if it will flavor the meat if i mash up a bunch of apples and mix it into their portion of feed every day...
In my experience there are no real benefits to caging mixed breed/mongrel birds for fattening, unless you literally want more fat to build up under skin and internally. If they're receiving food their bodies don't need because they can't exercise like a normal chook, then it is stored as fat. I used to cage them and try to put more meat on them and keep their meat softer and found better meat by far on my free ranging roosters than any caged ones.

Each animal has a genetically predetermined muscle quota and will reach that if healthy, whether exercising or not, though an exercising bird will have some level of tone to its muscles; genetics is what actually determines how tender the meat is as well as how much of it there is, and to lesser extents diet, age and cooking method.

Any springiness gained via exercise, while abhorrent to some, is to me a more than fair trade in exchange for the health of a free ranging bird, since you really can taste the animal's quality of life in its flesh. Springiness is not the same thing as toughness and stringiness, but some like flaccid muscle whereas myself and my family find it revolting. Each to their own I, guess. The juiciness, grain, flavor and fibrous composition of the flesh is inherited for the most part. I've bred bantam genetics into my large fowl to bring in that easy fleshing tender juicy meat which is present in large quantity at any age despite them living an active lifestyle. My other experiments even with barred rocks did not dispose me in their favor as meat birds.

I leave mine free ranging until the night before the cull date, when I separate them from the cage they sleep in to the death row cage. For the best tasting and healthiest meat it's vital that the animal does not stress or suffer fear, so it needs to be roaming at peace doing what chickens do and eating (if possible) fresh grass, insects, etc, until as close as possible to the due date. At least this is my experience. Fear, stress etc degrade meat badly and give it a rank flavor due to the stress hormones that flood the bloodstream. Being distressed also causes immune suppression so toxins bound in the kidneys and liver are released or improperly processed out of the bloodstream and circulate rather than being eliminated as efficiently as normal.

Grass contains chlorophyll which is a detoxer and contributes a lovely freshness to the meat. Being fed a mostly raw diet will give sweeter, cleaner tasting and softer flesh than a mostly cooked diet. Raw foods contribute to an alkaline ph which tastes better than a bird with an acidic ph, as many cooked foods often cause. Many chickens if given a chance will eat a diet comprised mostly of raw feed. Being by design jungle birds, chickens do well on lots of raw fruit and veg, in general. To be honest the single worst thing I have found for flavor and texture of poultry flesh is feeding them pellets or crumble of any of the usual brands. Caging comes a close second to that for how it ruins the meat as compared to free range birds. Organic pellets are better than standard, but no pellets is best if you can do that, but it's a fair bit more work and most people can't or won't for whatever reason.
Quote: Do you dislike the taste of apples? I haven't noticed that apples flavor meat, but they are something I use to detox heavy metals and to stop diarrhea in poultry.

The fiber in apples is very beneficial too, since cooked food contributes to a sluggish digestive system and metabolism and therefore sour bowels and in turn lower grade meat; apple fiber cleans out bowels which helps freshen the flavor of the bird, but the fibers in the core are harsh on many animals and given a chance they will not eat the very core.

Too many apple seeds can be fatal in rare cases, which is not a problem if you throw whole apples in the cage and let them pick out what they need, but if you're mashing it into the feed then you're not giving them a choice about which parts to consume. I smash apples on the ground and let them peck at them at will. If you mash them they will oxidize and change composition quickly which will turn a lot of them off of eating them while others will like them even more, all based on individual needs. It'll also contribute to the fermentation of the feed which may not be a bad thing but I don't know for sure. Raw onions are a great one for cleaning the bloodstream but the allium family flavors flesh and eggs according to some (we've not noticed it but then again we like the allium family) so there's that to consider.

About the squash, I don't know, and about the corn, that will both flavor and color their flesh nicely, and if it's GM quite possibly give them cancer too. I used to feed mine corn as a rule, but the recent changes made to it have induced growths of lumps as regular as I feed it so I will now only feed other grains, or non-GM corn.

Anyway, that was largely off topic but in a nutshell it's what I've found works for great tasting flesh, so maybe something in there's useful. Either way, best wishes.

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